One Foot in Front of the Other

Seattle is in bloom, and with warm, sunny afternoons in the forecast for this weekend, one might want to spend some time outside. If one wants to spend a whole 8.3 mile’s worth of time outside, boy, do we have the walk for you.

This haul from Golden Gardens Park to Magnuson Park shows off Seattle’s natural beauty, sprawling across town from Puget Sound to Lake Washington.

To be clear: This urban hike is a three-hour workout. It can be broken up, but walked in full, the trek features neighborhood streets and front-yard gardens, Olympic and Cascade mountain views and a midpoint of Green Lake Park. The third beloved Seattle park on this route roughly halves the mileage.

As always, bring a buddy and an extra canteen. Mask up, spread out, be courteous. Sturdy shoes are a must, as are plans for getting back (the bus, perhaps a ride from a roommate) — the walk is more than 8 miles in one direction.


Golden Gardens Park to Magnuson Park

One-way distance: 8.3 miles

Golden Gardens is deservingly popular, but it can be overwhelming — take in the view then get going.

At the park, you’ll find bathrooms at Golden Garden Bathhouse. To start the walk from this landmark, with the water to your right, follow the sandy concrete pathway about 200 feet south, then turn east away from the water.

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Beyond the Honey Buckets, a crosswalk leads to a small tunnel under the railroad. Once through the tunnel, to the right is a crosswalk leading uphill to a shaded incline of about 60 stairs, broken up into sets of six.

At the top of the stairs: more bathrooms, parking and the Golden Gardens off-leash area. You could also start the walk here. Especially because there are more stairs.

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Continuing east and uphill along the path, there’s a steeper set of about 50 stairs with handrails on both sides. (Sanitize!) At the top, turn around and hunt for glimpses of water through the trees. A dirt path switchbacks up the ridge leading to (sorry) another set of about 50 stairs. The last set, I promise.

There’s a bench in the shade on Sunset Hill at the top of the stairs; catch your breath and another look west. (Of course, you could find street parking here — at the junction of Northwest 85th Street, Loyal Way Northwest and 32nd Avenue Northwest — and start this journey on a less sweaty foot.)

It’s 3 miles to Green Lake. Minding the construction, cross the street and follow diagonal Loyal Way southeast toward Loyal Heights. Loyal runs into Northwest 80th Street at 28th Avenue Northwest, where there’s a crosswalk and a house on the corner with a sign that points folks right for the beach and left for the lookout.

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Take 80th east beyond Loyal Heights Elementary School and the cluster of cafes and businesses at 24th Avenue Northwest. It’s a straight shot to Green Lake through North Seattle neighborhoods with cute, reawakening front-yard gardens and trees in various stages of bloom.

Around 19th Avenue Northwest, the quiet neighborhood walk begins to dip downhill. You’ll pass the Stay Healthy Streets segment at 17th Avenue Northwest before crossing busy 15th Avenue Northwest, back up a tiny hill.

See the city on foot with these 3 walks through Seattle’s Stay Healthy Streets

A few blocks beyond 15th, the Cascade Range peeks into view, snowcapped tokens of progress. By 10th Avenue Northwest, a peak stands squarely in the middle of the street on the horizon, and the cool downhill trot to Green Lake begins.

You’ll cross another Stay Healthy Street at First Avenue Northwest, just before the brick tower and cupola at St. John the Evangelist Parish. Beyond the church is Greenwood Avenue North and growing Cascade views in the distance.

Late-afternoon sun brought out a crowd of walkers and runners around Green Lake in November. (Greg Gilbert / The Seattle Times)

Continue downhill toward and beyond Aurora Avenue North as we close in on Green Lake. A block beyond Aurora, you’ll find diagonal Green Lake Drive North pointing southeast right into the park. Traffic lights were down at Green Lake Drive on two recent visits, so be careful getting into the park.

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From the top of Green Lake, it’s about 4 miles to Magnuson. Green Lake has bathrooms, parking and is worth a spring afternoon itself — it’s the midway point for this route, but it could justifiably be the start or endpoint.

Follow the lake to its east side and exit the park beyond the courts and fields. (Obey foot-traffic signage and stick to the outer path.) Take Northeast Ravenna Boulevard southeast; I like to walk on the wide, grassy median. At Northeast 65th Street, you’ll continue the walk east under Interstate 5 and through Roosevelt’s rapidly rising commercial center.

Beyond that, there’s an all-too-Seattle scene: several small businesses shuttered, vacant and fenced lots, cranes, all overshadowed by 20-story apartment buildings. I stopped for a fruit at open-air Rising Sun Produce.

The walk is flat until a gradual uphill begins around 15th Avenue Northeast, then slopes back downhill around 18th Avenue. Continue downhill toward Ravenna’s main drag at Ravenna Avenue Northeast, with plenty of shade and sidewalk space on both sides of the road.

At 25th Avenue Northeast, I regret to inform you there is another hill. But with your calves starting to burn, push on — the homestretch looms, the Cascades begging to come back into view. You’ll level out around 32nd Avenue Northeast.

The final up-and-down begins around Wedgwood, with a big dip as the mountains return to the horizon. You’ll reach a low point at 39th Avenue and start back uphill beyond Bryant Playground. The final upward stretch is through this peaceful, tree-lined neighborhood.

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At Ann Arbor Avenue Northeast atop the hill, you can turn and see back to the Olympics. The clash of colors at sunset is splendid.

Keeping with the collegiate theme, follow Northeast Princeton Way in a “U” shape stemming down from Northeast 65th Street. Rounding the corner, Lake Washington and the Cascades jump into view as the road winds downhill.

Magnuson Park is the eastern terminus for this trek from Puget Sound to Lake Washington. (Steve Ringman / The Seattle Times)

Princeton Way turns into Northeast 65th Street, which leads straight into Magnuson Park at the bottom of the hill. Take your time on this last half-mile before crossing Sand Point Way Northeast to enter the park.

Continue straight and you’ll run into the lake, or explore Magnuson’s trails by kicking north.

At the southeast tip of the park, there’s a bench by the water. At sunset on a clear day, with Lake Washington at your feet, you can see the Cascades and Mount Rainier painted pink and blue on the same canvas. You may find me there, tired and sweaty.